Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 29, 1963
NUMBER 17, PAGE 2,10

"The God Of The Hills"

Robert Harkrider

It is no uncommon thing to find men who deny the omnipotence of God. The power of Almighty God has always been localized and limited by those who rely on their own strength or on idol gods. Such was the fault of Benhadad, king of Syria, who was guilty of the highest crimes against Jehovah. He was not only a gross idolater, but also a blasphemer of God. Upon losing in battle to God's people, Benhadad excused his defeat with the assumption that Israel's God was the "god of the hills," and that if they would fight in the plains, the Syrians would be victorious, for "he is not God of the valleys." (1 King 20:28) Benhadad reasoned that God's strength was confined to a certain area and did not recognize Jehovah as God of heaven and earth.

The two futile invasions of Israel by this wicked king proved he was mistaken. Benhadad first besieged Samaria with a great army, bringing thirty-two kings with horses and chariots, and apparently expecting an easy victory. By the direction of God through His prophets, Israel soundly defeated this greater and stronger army. In vain the Syrians changed their ground and remodeled their army to invade the next year. God was not limited to the hills, and again Syria was routed and Benhadad taken captive in the plains. The strength of God cannot be measured, nor is it limited to any certain age or area. Whenever men consider Him weak, His strength is magnified, "for God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." (1 Cor. 1:27) We must be careful lest we minimize God's wisdom or confine His ways to a particular age or people.

Myriads of people in this generation have made Jehovah a "god of the hills" The circumstances are different, and the battles to be fought are not the same as those facing Benhadad, but the attitude of many toward God is the same. Men who deny His power, or who seek to improve upon His ways prove their unbelief and are guilty of the same crime as Benhadad. We need to renew our respect for God, the power of His gospel, and the beauty and sufficiency of His church.

Respect For God

Respect for God, recognition of and belief in His eternal power must be taught every successive generation. It was heartwarming to have read the prayer recently uttered by Gordon Cooper — a prayer of thanksgiving to his Creator, which he spoke into his tape recorder as he whizzed around the earth on his 16th orbit. This was fresh evidence that American astronauts believe that something more than computers guide them through the skies. In sharp contrast read the statement of Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov at a news conference in Seattle on May 6, 1962:

"Some people say there is a God out there. But in my travels around the earth all day long I looked around and didn't see him. I saw no God or angels. Up to our first orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin, no God helped build our rocket. The rocket was made by our people. I don't believe in God. I believe in man, his strength, his possibilities, and his reason." Titov also said some weeks earlier that, during his flight, he had thought of the wonders of the Communist system, not of God.

To God fearing people this statement seems incredible, especially coming from a man who has seen the wonders of God from a viewpoint few others have seen. However, atheism with all of its by-products, such as agnosticism and infidelity, is increasing. Our educational systems have been infiltrated with men who have made Jehovah a "god of the hills." These men limit God to existing only in the minds of fanatics and uneducated men. Some are teaching that God is only the fulfillment of a psychological need in people and nothing more — that He really does not exist in the heavens.

Whenever men exalt themselves they are easy prey for atheism. The Psalmist spoke of this attitude. "The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful." (Psa. 36:1, 2) True wisdom emanates from reverence, love, and obedience of God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." (Prov. 1:7) "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men." (1 Cor. 3:18-21) Parents must begin in early years implanting in the minds of their children the proper respect for God and the wonders of His creation.

Respect For The Gospel

Atheism is not alone in placing an abridgement on God's power. Others minimize the power of God when they question the sufficiency of the gospel. Those who believe the gospel incapable of drawing men to God are denying His power to save. The clamor is that the gospel is too old-fashion for this modern twentieth century, and efforts are made to dress it up with great fanfare and promotional schemes. Preachers often receive more recognition for their educational attainments and travels than for their knowledge and ability to proclaim the old Jerusalem gospel. The common run of "text sermons" heard these days are filled with personal experiences, humorous anecdotes, and emotional displays, and any allusion to the scriptures is only an afterthought Lessons so utterly devoid of instruction in the word of God may draw crowds, but they are an intrusion on the purity and power of the simple gospel of Christ. Sermons of little or no scripture may be morally uplifting, witty, original, and appealing to an audience, but they will not convert sinners. The gospel is God's power to save. (Rom. 1:16) The gospel is the message Christ commissioned His apostles to preach to the world. (Mark 16:15,16) Only the word of God is described as "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." (Heb. 4:12)

Do not make Jehovah a "god of the hills" by placing boundaries on the power of the gospel. The same gospel revealed in the first century is sufficient for this age. Our civilization may be more advanced in some respects, but human nature is basically the same and there is no new sin. The same evils that were preached against in that day must be preached against now, and the same merciful and loving Father who stood ready to receive in the first century has open arms in this generation. God's wisdom is not limited to one age, nor does He need the help of man to embellish and beautify the gospel to make it appealing. Denominations attempt improvement on God's power when they introduce creeds written by men. Our own brethren have fallen into a similar attitude when they appeal to the world with enticements other than the gospel. Whenever churches draw huge crowds by promotional schemes such as noted speakers or singers, fellowship dinners, or other means of entertainment, they appeal to the outward man. But the outward man drawn by this entertainment will become disinterested and turn away unless the same continues. They will be like the multitudes following Jesus, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6:26-65) The gospel appeals to the inward man, and the need for salvation must draw him to the Lord. The one thing our generation needs above all else is to enthrone God's word in our lives.

Respect For The Church

When fleshly ambitious and presumptuous men begin to tamper with the apostolic order of things in the church and to introduce changes for which the apostles gave neither precept nor example, they make Jehovah a "god of the hills" by considering God's way insufficient. God's manifold wisdom is made known by the church. (Eph. 3:10,11) Therefore, men who attempt improvement upon the revealed organization of the church have confined the wisdom of God to a certain generation. The church, when man has not defiled her and distorted her with his additions, can accomplish its mission as wonderfully well in the twentieth century as it could in the first century, God's wisdom in revealing the church was not limited to one particular age, end when men commit the presumptuous sin of thinking they can improve upon God's way, they dishonor God.

The church, planned by God from eternity (Eph. 3:10, 11), and for which Christ died (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23-27) is the grandest, most glorious institution this earth has ever known. The concept that the church needs human additions for this modern age has permeated the thinking of the religious world. Men have introduced general organizations into the church to control the resources of thousands of churches, instead of each church functioning autonomously. Separate organizations have been built which centrally control various churches with the false assumption this is necessary in our modern day of civilization. To be sure, the gospel must be preached to the whole world, and the church must fulfill its work of edification and ministration to the needy. But these works can be carried out effectively with the same organization revealed in the divine word — the local church.

In God's way the church evangelized the whole world within thirty years. Means of transportation in the first century were slow and inadequate. There was poor communication between towns — certainly no telephone, radio, or television. Since so many great obstacles hindered their work, a central organization to sponsor preaching the word in strange areas would seem needed for that age if ever it was needed. Yet, God in His infinite wisdom chose the pattern and as His blueprint was followed, the gospel was preached to all the world. (Col. 1:5,6) "But I say, Have they not heard? Yea verily, their sounds went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." (Rom. 10:18) Neither was it necessary to build human organizations to do the work of ministration. (Acts 6:1-6) Nor do we read of appeals that colleges were needed by the church in training its leaders. (Eph. 4:16) The local church carried out the work of God according to God's own way. (Isa. 55:8, 9) To make additions or substractions from this pattern is to rob the church of its efficiency and power.

Man cannot improve on the wisdom of God or His ways for He is not a "god of the hills," but He is Lord God of heaven and earth. In the words of Paul, "0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33)

— P.O. Box 376, Pinson, Alabama